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EMC gets into subscription game

May 12, 20034 mins
Data CenterSAN

EMC Monday released two new products that mark the software vendor’s entry into the subscription software business.

EMC Monday released two new products that mark the software vendor’s entry into the subscription software business.

The two subscription services, SAN Architect, and Auto Advice, are designed to help users of its ControlCenter storage management software more easily design and analyze their networks and applications.

Available immediately with an annual subscription price starting at $2,400, SAN Architect is designed to help storage-area network designers avoid the tedious cutting and pasting and Microsoft Visio design work that typically accompanies the designing of a SAN network.

“It’s a very error-prone and manual set of tasks to design a SAN,” said EMC Director of Open Software Marketing Pat Cassidy. SAN Architect, he explained, uses a template-driven system to get designers to enter the devices and applications on their network. It then connects with EMC’s central database which tells the designer which devices will and will not work together and also provides best practices information so they can estimate, for example, how much storage space to allot to a particular configuration of a Microsoft Exchange server.

Randy Carter, a storage attached network architect with Radian Group who has been beta-testing SAN Architect since April, said he used SAN Architect to design a network based on information he had used 10 months earlier while designing a data center. “I took the information and plugged it into the SAN Architect product, and I basically had five-sixths of my time saved,” he said.

Carter said the main time saver was SAN Architect’s ability to relieve him of the tedious cutting and pasting from the EMC Support Matrix, a 900 page document on EMC’s Web site that lists the individual components such as host bus adaptors and fiber channel switches that have been tested for EMC storage hardware and serves as a guide of how to configure them.

“To me it’s one step toward a completely integrated online environment, because it’s actually a Web-based tool,” he said.

Cassidy said the subscription model makes sense for a SAN design product because customers typically change SAN configurations frequently, and that for some, the cost of calling in consultants for every adjustment is prohibitive. “You get a new directive and have to roll out a new set of servers. Do you call the experts again? You might as well put them on staff at that point,” he said.

SAN Architect currently supports only EMC’s line of storage arrays, but the next release will allow users to customize SAN Architect to support other products, and the following release will support competing products like HP’s StorageWorks, said Cassidy. Both follow-up releases are expected in the second half of 2003, he said.

EMC’s other new service, Auto Advice, collects system performance metrics from local systems and applications and ships them to an EMC data warehouse that then analyzes the data and produces a daily performance report, which is e-mailed to the customer. “Within this email, you can see your high-level view of what’s going on or drill down into specific metrics like I/O buffer rate or CPU utilization,” Cassidy said.

“Auto Advice is very specifically targeted at the server, application and database space. It automates performance monitoring and reporting,” said Cassidy. He said the product could be used to generate reports about the performance of Linux, Unix, and Windows, SAP AG’s R/3, Oracle databases and Microsoft’s SQL Server and Exchange.

The products should also help EMC’s customers to achieve more without a big increase in expense, said Steve Kenniston, a technology analyst with Enterprise Storage Group.

“We’re in an economy today where a lot of information technology professionals are being laid off and companies are trying to do more with less,” he said. These products give EMC “the capability to see inside customers’ environments and understand their configuration, and from that get to solving their problems much quicker than before.”

Kenniston said that Auto Advice was based on software that EMC picked up when it acquired Luminate Software in late 2001.

Auto Advice is available immediately, starting at $400 per CPU, EMC said.